Viral Video Marketing: What’s, Why’s & How’s of Going Viral

Alan Meyer on Social Media Marketing

Video MarketingUnderstanding Viral Video Marketing

Viral video marketing works in extremes, whether that be success or failure.

You’re at work right now and totally not watching funny cat videos, right? Right, because you are focused on coming up with the next great marketing campaign to promote your company!

That’s when it occurs to you that maybe you can incorporate that cat video that has 20 million views into your marketing campaign.

That will get your company in front of millions of people, you’ll get a raise and high fives all around; or maybe it will fall flat on it’s face with only two views (one view is yours) and one thumbs down on Youtube (from your boss).

So why did it fall flat if everyone loves to watch cat videos? Well maybe it’s because cats have nothing to do with your brand.

Maybe you didn’t market it well enough to actually catch on, or maybe it did get a million views, but it didn’t relate to your company enough to have good returns. Even if a video goes viral, it is important to consider what outcome you would like to see.

Viral video marketing is a great tool for any company or product when done properly and successfully.

There’s no reason to list out examples of successful viral video campaigns here because you already know any example I could list and if it wasn’t a successful campaign, then neither of us generally will have seen it or heard of it (unless it failed in an epic ball of internet fire).

Instead, let’s talk about what viral video marketing is, why you want to use viral video marketing, and how to do it successfully.

What Exactly is Viral Video Marketing?

Viral video marketing is a marketing technique used to promote brand awareness, products, services, or to achieve other marketing objectives. This technique uses social networking and other tools to gain traction for the video.

Viral video marketing relies on people sharing the video for it to be successful. Rather than paying to have the video played (like a regular advertisement), it is promoted to an existing audience that are most likely to be active in social media and will share the video.

So what constitutes a video as hitting the status of viral? The number of views necessary to be considered viral varies from definition to definition; in fact there is not a hard set definition for how many views make a video viral.

The general consensus is that a video that gains a large amount of views over a certain amount of time can be considered to have gone viral. A specific rule of thumb is that a video needs to gain over 5 million views in a 2-3 week period.

Some of the most well known examples of viral video marketing have all broken past 10 million views.

One factor that everyone can agree on is that a video can be considered viral if it can remain well known beyond the initial hype and create word of mouth sharing.

Why You Should Be Using Viral Video Marketing

Creating a viral video marketing campaign definitely has it’s benefits when done well. Having a viral marketing video generates fantastic brand awareness with huge reach across many audiences.

Generating brand awareness is of course an obvious reason to produce a promotional video, but that’s only one of many great benefits of viral video marketing.

Cost-Effective Marketing

The first really big benefit of viral video marketing is the cost, which is often times much lower than standard advertising.

Getting an advertisement play time on television is very expensive, especially if it is during any sort of primetime programming on a major channel. By having a promotional video that lives on the internet, it is free to host using a service such as YouTube.

Promotional videos that are going online also tend to cost much less to produce than a commercial production meant for television. Of course some viral marketing videos cost just as much, if not more, to produce than a standard commercial.

It will all depend on what you create for your video. If you are want to have Chuck Norris riding a dancing elephant on the roof of the Empire State building, it’s obvious that will cost more than your average viral video marketing campaign video.

Better Audience Targeting

Rather than paying to get more plays to reach a large audience with a shotgun effect, viral video marketing relies on targeting a smaller audience to begin with.

This audience is then more likely to share the video with other similar minded people who will enjoy the video and share it as well. Generally the initial round of views can come from an existing social media following that actively share on their social media platform of choice.

Video Marketing as a whole is also a much more engaging promotional tool than print promotion. Customers have a higher likelihood of making a purchase from a company that has video content on their site.

According to, customers are in fact 64-85% more likely to make a purchase after watching a product video.

This can be applied to viral video marketing in the sense that people will be more likely to engage with the company when encountering it through a viral promotional video than if they were to have read a written promotion for the company.

How to Make Your Viral Marketing Video

Let’s start by stating the obvious, you have to first create the video. More than anything you need to design the video. What story will it tell? How does that relate back to your brand? Why will people want to watch it? Will people want to share it?

There are a million things to consider when creating a video with the goal of creating a viral marketing campaign.

When you are putting together a concept for the video there are a few do’s and don’ts that you should follow:

  • Make the story emotional, but not depressing
  • Keep the branding minimal/subtle
  • Develop a marketing plan for it
  • Quality and length of the video

Strike an Emotional Chord With Your Story

When you write the story you will want to make it strike an emotional chord with your viewers. People are much more likely to share a video that makes them have a serious case of “the feels”.

Although creating an emotional reaction is a key element, you want to avoid depressing or sad content. Sad content is much less likely to be shared than something that makes someone laugh or even makes them angry.

Don’t mistake emotional for sad though, there are ways that you can have your viewers crying while still giving them something uplifting.

An example of this is MetLife’s “My dad’s story” video. This video takes the viewer through an emotional roller-coaster only to bring tears to their eyes by the end. But the video doesn’t leave the viewer sad, but instead uplifted by the final messaging.

The safest approach is to create something that is funny, something that evokes a real gut laugh not some light chuckling. Write your script and run it through some coworkers, friends, and that really serious neighbor that you think might be a robot.

If you can evoke some laughs from them just reading it (and even a smirk from the super serious neighbor will do) then you are definitely on the right track. Next you will want to focus on who’s going to be able to act well in your video.

Find someone that can really deliver those punch lines to get the best effect possible; or maybe find the person that is so awkward it’s even funnier. No matter why they best fit the role, just make sure that they are the best choice for your video.

Keep The Branding To a Minimum

Although it is tempting to push your brand through your video as much as it will fit, you will want to keep the branding to a minimum.

There are good ways to have branding appear subtly throughout the video without coming across as overt promotion, but it is best to save the branding until the end. There are of course viral videos that are directly commercials for a brand or company.

The video should make an impact on the viewer and provide enough branding for them to connect it to your company without feeling overwhelmed.

Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More

As weird as it might sound, it is a must that you have a marketing plan in place for your viral video marketing campaign. You will need to market your marketing efforts.

Viral Marketing videos don’t generally just happen to go viral. There are a small few that go insanely viral with no expectation to do so, or effort to do so, on the company’s end. When that happens, it is akin to winning the internet lottery.

In most cases, marketing videos go viral because of existing social networking followers of either the company or another source that shares the company’s video upon release. Most times it is very helpful to enlist somebody that has a larger following on the web to help with the initial push of the video.

The other important marketing effort to make is to create an early hype for the release of the video. This can be done in many different ways, a few examples being:

  • Posting behind the scenes pictures/video clips before the release
  • Social media posts regarding the upcoming release of the video
  • Creating teaser clips for the video

Short and Sweet, Sweet Looking Video That Is

A good length for your video is very important to keep in mind. Shorter videos tend to do better than long videos in multiple ways. Having a short video maintains better focus than long videos.

Keeping the video under 3 minutes is generally a good length to retain viewers through the end of the video.

With how available affordable video tools are, now everyone thinks they are a videographer. Shaky video, bad audio, pixelated graphics, bad acting, etc, will deter viewers and will not generate the number of shares and views necessary to launch your company’s video to stardom.

Hiring a professional to create your video is always the best way to go.

Another major aspect of quality is clearly the content. For a video to go viral, it needs to be interesting, especially if it is promoting for something that is generally a somewhat dry subject. You also will want to consider what the actual point of the video is.

Are you simply creating brand recognition or are you aiming to increase sales? Whatever your goal is, you will want to make sure to include a call to action that will make use of all of those views coming in on the video.

These seem like something that should be self evident but can be an easy target to miss. Even if you have a great script, bland visuals can ruin the concept of the video leaving viewers bored.

So what are you waiting for?

People are always looking for web content to consume and videos are most often a preferred source. Creating a video with a good marketing plan can lead to viral success for the video and your company.

By creating a video that is shareable, that evokes an emotional response, is relatable for viewers, and has a great marketing plan, you can be well on your way to a great viral video marketing campaign.


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